MINI / Feature

A Birthday to Remember

Celebrate your kiddos in Southwest Florida style with over-the-top decor, treats and a dash of magic.

BY September 20, 2022
Over the top beach party
(Courtesy Memorable Mobile Parties/Caleigh Michele)

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Birthdays provide the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together and make your little feel extra-special, so do it up!

These days, extravagant celebrations for children are as common as a trip to the ice cream parlor. Parents are dropping thousands for private chefs, dedicated bartenders, bespoke party favors and DJs. A recent three-deck yacht location for a 10-year-old’s birthday rivaled the vessel from Bravo TV’s Below Deck reality show. “Grown-ups want to feel that nostalgia, so they are also making it an experience for themselves,” event planner Julie Caldwell of Naples-based The Party Girl Co. says.

Sabine Schroeder, founder of Kids Dream Factory, creates personalized sleepovers, complete with handcrafted tents and fine linens. She says social media has had a major influence on families wanting to celebrate in a grand way. For one tween’s birthday, the mother asked Brooke Prout of Cape Coral’s bash. Styling & Events to create an outdoor tea party with fantastical undertones, akin to those seen in Alice in Wonderland. The budget? “She didn’t give me one,” Brooke says. The result was a secret garden oasis filled with whimsical red-topped mushrooms, an opulent dessert table, and a larger-than-life marquee lit up with the birthday girl’s name Her name was also engraved on everything from the cutlery to the placemats to the boxes at the activity table. “Parents want every kid to feel special,” Brooke says, adding that each guest had their name etched on elements throughout the party, too.

Memorable Mobile Parties founder Gisselle Rodriguez agrees there’s an uptick in personalizing a child’s event. “We’re pretty much asked to do event branding,” Gisselle says. “No one wants a cookie-cutter party. Clients are about finding the next unique location or decor or backdrop or party favor; anything they could get their hands on that’s different from everyone else.”

That’s not to say that familiar gatherings of years past, with pizzas and piñatas, aren’t popular today. It’s just that some families are dialing up the details with gourmet, chef-prepared pizza served on plates branded with the child’s name in gold foil and piñatas handcrafted by artisans from Europe. 

For all the naysayers who are baffled by the extravagance given to an affair that lasts a handful of hours for a pint-sized individual who can’t yet drive, event designer Wylie Farrugia of Naples’ Picture Perfect Picnics is quick to counter: “Some families’ ‘why’ might be because they want to have the memory for themselves.” She recently threw a 6-year-old tea party with fine-bone china, flown in from England. “They are living in the present and want to see their kids happy. It’s magical and thoughtful. And the kids always feel surprised and special.”

Make them the star by putting your child’s name on everything from the cutlery to the marquee, like was done at a party by bash. Styling & Events:

Sarah is 11 birthday signage
(Photo Courtesy bash. Styling & Events)


Planners at Memorable Mobile Parties create a whole vibe with on-theme decor and activities, like a dive-in movie screening by the pool, complete with floating seats and mini monogrammed popcorn carts:

dive-in movie screening by the pool
(Photo Courtesy Memorable Mobile Parties/Caleigh Michele)


…or a Mickey Mouse safari with lifesize animal statues and Disney cutouts:

Safari Birthday Theme
(Photo Courtesy Memorable Mobile Parties)


Immersive experiences are big, too: We love this high-tea setup by Picture Perfect Picnics for a girl’s 6th birthday in Naples:

Kids Birthday Backyard Tea Party
(Photo Courtesy Picture Perfect Picnics)


Meanwhile, Kids Dream Factory likes to create sparkling backdrops to make your photos pop:

Shimmery backdrop
(Photo Courtesy Kids Dream Factory/Marc Schroeder Photography)


Take It Off-Site

Meet the family behind Estero’s Sprinkle BASH, where the celebration is centered around DIY fun.

If there’s any example of “Instagram vs. Reality,” it’s birthday parties. You can start with the cutest tableware and best activity ideas, but once the kids hit the scene: total chaos, with a side of cleanup. 

Enter Sprinkle BASH. Created by kindergarten teacher Jennifer Rodriguez, the Cayo de Estero Shoppes studio is designed to throw that perfect fête, stress-free. “I’m a creative spirit and wanted an outlet,” she says. “Our wall says it all: ‘This is where daydreamers come to party.’” 

Jennifer opened Sprinkle BASH in 2020 as a DIY studio and retail store for party goods, offering workshops and Parents Night Out events—“Strictly word-of-mouth,” she says—until people started asking about parties. The first was dinosaur themed, with T-Rex bedecked cups, a leafy photo backdrop topped with flying pterodactyls and an activity for junior paleontologists to excavate tiny dinos from clay. “Parents love that the mess is out of the house,” she says.

Jennifer now offers more than 30 themes, from mermaids to outer space to Halloween, any time of year. She’s also happy to riff on any idea—turn a woodland fairy party into a gnome party, for example—and always includes crafts that match the theme, like painting mermaid tales on canvas, decorating a wooden fairy door, or making alien slime. “I can bring in a cotton candy machine, or I can make Elsa hold a donut, whatever your child wants,” she says with a laugh. She runs the business with her husband, Gabe, and their two young daughters help out, too.

With Sprinkle BASH’s growth, Jennifer moved the party goods online to make more space for artistic play. “I like to think of it as the best play date your child has ever had with their friends,” Jennifer says.

the family behind Estero’s Sprinkle BASH
The family behind Estero’s Sprinkle BASH (Photo Courtesy Sprinkle BASH)


Add More Immersive Fun   


Naples-based Megan Osborn brings the petting zoo to your party, adding baby goats, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, a baby camel and a miniature donkey to the guest list.


With a cast of trained singers who lead storytime, sing-alongs and coronation ceremonies, Wish Upon a Star adds the magic to any party from Naples to Cape Coral with Disney Princesses, superheroes and Star Wars characters.


For the tiniest tots, Little Sweet P sets up soft play areas, ball pits, foam blocks and small bounce castles in your colors and themes.


Turn your event into a tournament with mobile laser battle, hydro battle or archery (with soft-tipped arrows). “It gets the kids interacting with each other as a team,” owner Scott Keller says.


Your kid will feel like they’re on an episode of Chopped at Little Chefs in Training in Fort Myers, where they get a basket with ingredients to make pasta, tacos, sushi, pizza or other themed meals. Sweets lovers can request a Cupcake Wars party.


Embrace the Sugar High  

The statement cake is here and Naples-based You & Me Cakes nails the trend.

It all started with a two-tier Superman cake for her son Jacob. Roshelle Santiago wanted to please her little superhero fan and set out to create his dream cake. Never mind that she didn’t have the know-how; she quickly learned she had a knack for the confectionery arts.

Over the next four years, the mother of three scoured YouTube, teaching herself how to make rainbow cakes with towers connected by custom toppers; designs layered with cones, donuts and macaroons; and Minecraft creations, wrapped in dozens of tiny square pixels. Her most elaborate? A Finding Nemo cake—just the characters (Nemo, Dory, Hank and Mr. Ray) took six hours to bake and shape. “I make everything by hand; even when people bring me inspiration, I tell them it’ll have my own twist,” Roshelle says.

Recently, she’s seen less interest in colorful, cartoony cakes and more requests for boho-chic sweets with pastel palettes and simple but precise design. She’s partial to the aesthetic as a sophisticated complement to luxe parties.

Beyond being entirely handmade, Roshelle’s cakes are made fresh within two days of delivery, nut-free (she’s allergic) and almost always 100 percent edible.

Neutral tone rainbow birthday cakes
(Courtesy You & Me Cakes)


Blow Them Away

Extravagant balloon installations are the new must-have for over-the-top celebrations.

Balloons have come a long way from when you’d buy a couple dozen in coordinating colors from Party City. Now, there are people dedicated to the balloon arts, creating cascading arches, cloud-like formations and installations that float and overflow through the venue.

Locally, Party Girl Co. has become the go-to for modern-chic styles. Founder Julie Caldwell uses monochromatic schemes, handpainted balloons or her signature BOUQS (balloon bouquets) to create setups that wow. “Balloons equal happiness; they are the universal symbol of joy across the world,” says Julie, who aims to bring a sophisticated spin to the classic party supply.

The sought-after Marcy Lorenzo, of Marcy’s Balloon Decor in Naples, likes to use helium-filled installations to create stunning backdrops for cakes and photos. Like many luxury ballooners, Marcy is mindful to buy biodegradable products, and her team pops all the balloons at the end and disposes of everything properly, so only the memories (and those great Instagram pics) remain.

Marcy’s Balloon Decor
Helium-filled installations, like this one from Marcy’s Balloon Decor, bring kids’ favorite movies to life. (Courtesy Memorable Mobile Parties and Marcy’s Balloon Decor/Valerie Fyke Photography)



Give it Forward

Picking the perfect present can be tricky—unless that gift is aimed at a local charity. Here, six local kids share their most meaningful birthday donations.

Since her 7th birthday, 10-year-old Natalie Huntington has asked guests to bring donations for Domestic Animal Services. “I feel like I have so much and like I have to give back to the animals because they give us so much,” Natalie says.

Animal shelters are popular for present donations. Carolina Diaz, of Humane Society Naples, says she sees it becoming more popular, especially among children ages 7-12. Naples-based Sawyer Williams, whose party featured a petting zoo, is one of those generous kiddos who gives to HSN. “It just feels like the right thing to do,” the 8-year-old says.

Maeve Wasmer, who is 11, had a book party and collected 80 new reads to donate to children at Fun Time Early Childhood Academy in Naples. “I thought about how families don’t have enough money to buy books,” Maeve says.

Donation gifts are very personal for 9-year-old Raegan Banker, who collects toys at her parties that she gives to children at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Raegan’s older brother died of brain cancer, and this is a way to keep him alive in her memory. “My room was full of toys, but kids are in the hospital, and I thought I would donate toys for my birthday,” she says.